Astra 600 9mm Pistol
Previous Post
Next Post

At least in my experience, the modern gun show sucks. Huge letdown. It’s full of striker-fired polymer-frame pistols, AR-15s, Wish-quality optics, and everything wears an extreme markup. Don’t forget the cheap Chinese knives, the sound of tasers, and, of course, the random pyramid scheme.

So, imagine my shock when my little town had its first gun show in decades, and it was precisely what gun shows should be. I ended up walking away with two pistols, one of which is featured here: the Astra 600 AKA the Pistole Astra 600/43.

This gun show had piles of cool surplus guns. Highlights include a .410 caliber Lee-Enfield, a Vietnam-era Starlight scope, and a nice gentlemen with a table of surplus handguns priced appropriately. He and I chatted extensively about various pistols, calibers, and even historical events. I was caught between two guns, an Astra 600 and an FN M1922, and I was having trouble deciding. Both were fairly priced, but he made an offer I couldn’t refuse if I purchased both.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
It’s an interesting looking pistol, but it works (Travis Pike for TTAG)

So here we are, and I’m now the proud owner of an Astra 600 and an FN M1922. Today we dive into the Astra 600, the Wermacht pistol the world kind of forgot. It’s an oddly shaped pistol with a sharp grip angle and strange, tubular design to it. The Astra certainly catches the eye.

History of the Astra 600

It’s 1943, and Nazi Germany needs more pistols. They couldn’t get enough Walthers, Hi-Powers, or old Lugers into service, apparently. The sad little bastards reached across Europe and contracted with Spain for more handguns. The Germans requested that Unceta y Cia redesign the Astra 400.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
Most Astra 600s never made it to the Nazis (Travis Pike for TTAG)

They wanted to trim the barrel length from 5.9 inches to 5.3 inches, and they wanted to chamber the pistol in 9mm Luger. The old Astra 400 used the underappreciated 9mm Largo, but the Germans predictably wanted to standardize the pistols. The Spaniards redesigned and altered the Astra as requested, and the Astra 600 came to life.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
The Astra 600 was made for the Nazi government, but they got their asses kicked to soon for total delivery (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Spaniards sent fifty of the pistols to the Germans for approval in late 1943. The Germans did a once-over and approved the Astra as the Astra 600/43. They placed an order, with the first delivery being set for May 1944. The Germans received three total deliveries of the pistols, with a little over 10,000 being delivered to the German war machine. The final shipment arrived in July 1944.

In June 1944, the Normandy invasion began. Germany had been getting their butts handed to them since Stalingrad, but that accelerated greatly after Normandy, especially since Germany relied on the occupation of France to take delivery of the pistols. The Astra 600s sat unused until after the war when West Germany took delivery, alongside Portugal and Turkey for their police forces.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
The slide locks to the rear, but there isn’t a slide release (Travis Pike for TTAG)

In the 1960s, Interarms purchased the pistols and imported them to the United States. Now, all these years later, one sits locked in my safe.

Astra 600 Design Details

The Astra 600 comes from a generation of pistols that embraced that all-metal design. The gun weighs 2.4 pounds. If you run the gun dry, you can beat someone to death with it. Also, like most pistols of this day and age, the weapon used a single stack magazine that contained eight rounds of 9mm.

The system used a very simple blowback operation. The fixed barrel uses a very stiff spring that’s quite standard on direct blowback 9mms. You must have a means to delay the opening of the breach, and you have few options for this with blowback pistols. You can use a stiff recoil spring or a very heavy slide, or some combination of both.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
The Astra 600 uses adirect blowback sytem (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The gun utilized an internal, single action only hammer and a very interesting magazine release. It’s on the left-hand side of the gun and sits on the bottom of the grip. This is a Navy release according to Astra’s conventions. The standard Astra pistols utilized a heel magazine release. Swapping magazines is fairly easy for a bottom-mounted magazine release. Pinch it, grab the magazine and go.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
It’s an interesting release and it’s surprisingly ergonomic (Travis Pike for TTAG)

On the left side of the gun also sits a manual safety that’s in front of the pistol grip and immediately below the slide. It rotates upward to be ‘safe.’ Your thumb can just reach the safety to disable it. The Astra 600 safety disables itself when you operate the slide. It also has a grip safety and a magazine safety.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
While oddly placed, the safety isn’t difficult to release (Travis Pike for TTAG)

At the Range

This won’t be a gun I shoot all the time, but it’s a solid enough shooter. The sights are standard for the time and very small. It’s a notch and a little thin post. It works well enough when Americans, Russians, and the Brits aren’t shooting at you. The trigger isn’t great, but not terrible. The Astra 600 is a tack driver.

Even with the small sights, this thing is very accurate and creates tiny groups at 15 yards. At 25 yards, I can ring steel over and over without much difficulty. The blowback design ensures there is plenty of felt recoil, and a thin grip doesn’t give you much to help spread the recoil out. It digs in, and you’ll appreciate Browning’s short recoil design after a few magazines.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
Look at these tiny sights! (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The grip looks almost entirely straight but doesn’t feel uncomfortable. It’s surprisingly not bad, especially when you shoot one-handed in a bladed style. The heavily checkered grips are quite nice, and the aggressive checkering keeps the gun locked in your hand.

The slide locks to the rear when the last round is fired, and dropping the slide requires releasing the magazine, inserting a fresh one, and then working the slide. The Astra 600 features very small but very aggressively textured slide wings. These little portions of slide serrations make it a fair bit easier to rack the slide even against the strong recoil spring.

Astra 600 9mm Pistol
Not exactly a concealed carry gun (Travis Pike for TTAG)

The Forgotten WW2 Pistol

The Astra 600 is a robust and reliable little pistol often forgotten about in the grand scheme of World War Two pistols. It’s an interesting-looking pistol that might be one of the last art deco-looking semi-autos. They are reasonably affordable for collectors and provide a great entry point into the world of milsurp pistols.

 

Previous Post
Next Post

27 COMMENTS

  1. “that obscure object of desire” pretty groovy bunuel film. strangely, it uses two different actresses for the same character. oh, and bombs. saw it at the 400 before they served drinks.

  2. Reminds me of a Savage. Always did. I understand both were great pistols. No experience with either except what I’ve read. They are funny looking through. Anyway, I enjoyed the article.

  3. Had a chance at a 1922 here a while back. After the fact I realized it was a really good price too. Didn’t buy cause I had several other build projects going on. I regret it immensely after the fact.

  4. I have a 400 in 9 Largo…agreed, it’s an excellent round and under-appreciated. I enjoy shooting the pipe gun and like the comments it gets at the range.

  5. I have mixed emotions about this pistol. Like most of Astra’s guns of this era they must have been totally paranoid of an accidental discharge as the trigger pulls on the 600 are really heavy and I mean heavy. On my Lyman digital trigger which goes up to 12lbs when I attempted to take a reading the pull went right off the scale. I am guessing the trigger pull was at least 15 lbs or more. a lot, lot more.

    Taking this heavy trigger into consideration only a mountain Gorilla could ever shoot this gun accurately even off of sand bags. After just a few shots one has to rest awhile before shooting anymore shots.

    The pistol does have a crisp trigger pull which would be great if one could reduce the trigger pull weight but I warn you do not attempt this at home as there are no spare parts for this gun and if you ruin the sear or trigger you will not be able to do anything with it except sell it for spare parts.

    Due to the barrel that does not recoil or move the inherent accuracy is outstanding but the heavy trigger pull cancels out all the inherent accuracy of the pistol.

    Also do not attempt to shorten any of the springs to improve the trigger pull either because this gun is a direct blow back and its spring pressure that prevents the gun from self-destructing when shooting it.

    The recoil of this pistol is really horrific despite the fact that it is only a 9mm because it is a direct blowback. It is not a pleasant gun to shoot and if you can shoot more than 50 rounds at one sitting you have no live nerve endings in the palm of your hand.

    The sights are actually quite good for a military pistol of this era and are easily seen but they are not adjustable as the one I have has a rear sight milled right out of the slide. In other words you not only cannot move the rear sight , you also cannot remove it either because its part of the slide. A dumb move in the design department as it had to cost more to make it that way than simply mill a dovetail slot in the slide.

    The gun has a powerful recoil spring because it is a blow back and it can be quite hazardous when stripping the gun down. If you let the barrel bushing lock get away from you , you just might knock out one of your teeth or eye.

    The 400/600 series of pistols were known for their reliability , so much reliability that some Hill Jacks have fired other calibers out of it and the darn gun still functioned even with the wrong ammo in it. And no, I am not going to tell you what calibers these idiots used. If your interested, way back in the past, the Gun Digest did an article on the Astra and went into detail about this. After reading it and understanding the various calibers these idiots fired out of it I guarantee you it will give you nightmares for years to come.

    In the good old days I was often offered stone cold mint examples of both the 400 and 600 models for prices as cheap as $150 and like a dumb ass passed them up. Several years ago I had to pay $650 for a nice one which shows you that the good old days of cheap milsurps are now part of the dead hand of the past. Gone with the wind forever.

    Yes in the good old days it was fun collecting all the odd ball military pistols. Even the famous ones were affordable and I include the Luger and the 1911 and FN High Power on that list. I paid $100 for a Luger and ditto for a Nazi FN High Power and $50.00 for a 1911. Polish Radom’s were often sold for $50. The FN 1910 and FN 1922 were favorite G.I. bring backs and often sold for $20 and $30. WWII Walther P38’s could often be found in unfired condition. And ditto for the Walther PP and PPk.

    I have a collectors book at home on European pistols and just the variety of .25 acp pistols would keep a serious collector busy for decades trying to collect them all but that was back in the days when they sold for no more than $30.00 each. Today you would have to be well to do if you wanted an extensive collection of many of these odd ball pistols. Again gone with the wind.

    I would like to see the .25 acp make a comeback as today the manufactures have all but ignored these cute little pocket pistols. They were so convenient to carry you had to keep reminding yourself you had a gun in your pocket. And do not sell the.25 acp short as yes it will kill and I could give you many stories of people who’s lives were saved because they had one in their pocket or purse. A .25 acp in the hand in a dark alley is light years better than a 10mm you left under the seat of your car because it was too damn heavy to carry comfortably.

        • Just to be on the safe side I looked in the mirror. It’s me. You still have an unbroken streak of being wrong, herr dacian the nazi.

      • No, probably the real lil’ d. How can you tell ? Took fifty times too many words to tell us he’s a candyass that couldn’t shoot the thing accurately, after the author extolled the accuracy in the article… although I have serious doubts that he’s (?) ever SEEN one of these, much less owns one. All in all, a tragic waste of atmospheric oxygen.

        • Y’all need to quit being so hard on Dacian….it could be he’s schizophrenic or multi-polar and has different personalities in control at different times. He might even be Possum too, for all we know.

        • No, ‘dacian’ isn’t our beloved ‘Marsupial One’…

      • 100% agree!

        Luis and Travis do justice to the older firearms they cover / review.

        Hey Dan- how about a “Weapons of War Through the Ages” series? Pick a time frame and cover (in depth – dedicated articles for each major firearm covered) the small arms utilized during that time complete with actual range time. Could break it down by country? War? Action type? A shoot-off between the K-31, K-98, Krag, 1903, Enfield, Carcano, Arisaka, 8mm Lebel would be fun to read. M1 Carbine v Enfield Mk5 v Arisaka 38/44. So many interesting combinations.

        …and we haven’t even started on the handguns…

  6. Pretty sure Franco Nero had one of these in the climax of Il Mercenario.

    “Now I give you each a bullet…”

    Great flick. Great music.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here